Gods of Jade and Shadow

Silvia Moreno-Garcia
Gods of Jade and Shadow Cover

Gods of Jade and Shadow


Silvia Moreno-Garcia is an author I'd follow into almost any genre, and that's a good thing given how varied her career has been so far. From the 80's nostalgia-heavy Signal to Noise to the romance fantasy of manners The Beautiful Ones, to the criminally underrated sci-fi novella Prime Meridian and even the editorial work she does on The Dark Magazine (a recent addition to my short fiction rounds), Garcia brings talent, nuance and a particular eye for female characters challenging overwhelming imbalances in power over the forces against them. Now, in Gods of Jade and Shadow, Moreno-Garcia brings her talents to a historic fantasy where 1920's Jazz Age Mexico meets the gods and monsters of Mayan mythology, taking protagonist Casiopea Tun on an unexpected but long-dreamed-of adventure with a deposed Lord of the Underworld.

Casiopea's character is rooted in a satisfying set of tropes, and the novel wastes no time in establishing her position in its opening paragraph: "Casiopea Tun, named after a constellation, was born under the most rotten star imaginable in the firmament". Living in her Grandfather's house after the untimely death of her father, who her mother had previously eloped with, Casiopea suffers all the indignities of a poor relation, scorned by her extended family and community for the circumstances of her birth and for her mixed heritage, and particularly suffers at the hands of her cousin Martín, himself jealous and insecure about his position in the family as a toxic patriarch in training. Despite the misery of her situation, it's clear from the start that Casiopea is something special, and she's armed with both a heavily practical streak and a core of stubborn strength and self-belief which prevents her from being totally ground down by circumstance. While the character isn't inclined to romance, it's clear to the reader that the small, conservative town of Uukumil on the Yucutan Peninsula is unlikely to hold her for long.

Just as Gods of Jade and Shadow doesn't waste any time in setting up Casiopea's circumstances, it also doesn't waste any time in bringing her out of them (two chapters, to be precise). In a fit of frustration after an unjust punishment, Casiopea opens a mysterious forbidden chest in her Grandfather's room, and out comes Hun-Kamé, formerly Lord of Xibalba, who was deposed and imprisoned by his brother Vucub-Kamé decades before. As a condition of his awakening, Hun-Kamé leaves a shard of bone in Casiopea's finger, and it quickly becomes clear that the only way the two can untangle themselves from this new connection is for Casiopea to help the God to regain his former power - held in body parts which his brother has relieved him of and left with various other supernatural creatures - and challenge his brother for control of the underworld. Despite her concerns about eloping with a God without any long-term plan, Casiopea agrees, and the two set off on their adventures; once Vucub-Kamé realises that his brother has escaped, he descends on the family and sends Martín on his own, more reluctant, quest to stop them.